Jane Deverson—the forgotten poet who invented Generation X

generation X book titleIf you Google Jane Deverson all you will find is that she was the journalist, who with Charles Hamblett, invented the catchy term ‘Generation X’  to describe the disaffected youth born just after the close of the Second World War. Today they are better known as ‘ Baby Boomers ‘, but back in 1963, when she co-wrote the feature in question for the magazine ‘Woman’s Own’, that particular label had not yet been invented. Anyway, Generation X sounds a lot cooler. A book followed in 1964 and it was a copy of this, which budding punk Billy Idol found in his mother’s home, that inspired him to form a band with the same name.

Fast forward eight years to 1972 and the thirty-two year old publishes Night Edge, a collection of distinctly visceral poems whose imagery often recalls the nihilism of Ted Hughes’ Crow, which had appeared two years earlier:

Dying

Virtually vegetable
And watching
The antics of ants
Without strength to raise an arm
In greeting or defence.
Sporadic explosion
Of brain cells
Falling to refurbish
Frantic growing weeds
In the fast peddling cycle
Of the worm-churned earth.
Flesh pulped
As a poor quality by-product
Every practical particle
Save,the contribution
Of your body,
Although not singled out
For a vote of thanks
Or attributed to you
Personally by name,
Is useful to the universe.
As you devoured meat and wheat
At a wood table,
Now wood turned coffin,
Nature scavanges what it can,
And if a clover-leaf benefits your extinction,
It’s a small distinction,
But not much.

The collection includes eight characteristically, splodgy and violent pen and ink illustrations by Ralph Steadman. My copy, which appears to lack a title page, comes from the archive of Michael  ‘Accountant to the Stars’  Henshaw, and is a presentation copy to him signed and dated on the final page by Steadman in his usual Gargantuan style.

As for Jane Deverson, she seems to have disappeared from the public gaze. She has no Wikipedia entry and the numerous pages on ‘Generation X ‘ have nothing to say regarding her later career. From all available evidence, she appears to be still alive and if so, would be 75 now. [R.M.Healey]

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3 thoughts on “Jane Deverson—the forgotten poet who invented Generation X

  1. Joe S. Walker

    The term “Generation X” was quite forgotten before the band used it, and didn’t acquire its present significance and general use till Douglas Coupland took it for the title of his first novel in the Eighties. It’d be interesting to know what Jane Deverson made of it all.

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  2. Paul O

    Similarly the term “Generation Y” (for children born in the 90s) flourished briefly, but has been replaced by “The Millenials”. X and Y were cool but provisional (or cool because they were provisional) and more referential terms got accepted in the long term. Douglas Coupland’s mark-two “Generation X” (for children of the early 60s) did survive but it nearly lost out to “Slacker”.

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  3. Jot 101 Post author

    Many thanks Paul and Joe. You here the term “millennials” quite a bit now. Like every generation they disapprove of the one before and (I think) regard the “boomers” (Generation X?) as greedy and self-indulgent.

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